Agent Sam Hiyate Gives Great Tips to Writers

I spent a productive day on the weekend at a session put on by the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory in Toronto spoke to about 21 attentive writers and I’m not sure who had more fun, him or us. Sam’s enthusiasm as he talked about several of the books he represents kept the writers enthralled, each of us hoping to be the next published author whose story he might tell.

Some of the projects he mentioned were Claire Letemendia’s The Best of Men, of particular interest to me as it’s historical fiction, Andrew Kaufman’s The Waterproof Bible, Hothouse Flower by Margot Berwyn, and The Film Club by David Gilmore. Oh, and Skim, by Marika Tamaki, an amazing project using drawings in a novel way.  All sounded great and are unique, very original projects.

Any time I can listen to a writing expert for six hours, I’m there. And, usually, I get a great payback for my trouble. This session made my two-hour drive well worthwhile. Here is a list of just a few of the tidbits Sam mentioned.

1. 90% of books don’t earn back their advance.
2. Pre-emptive offer and option are two types of offers authors might receive.
3. 95% of movies come from books.
4. In Canada authors don’t have to pay back what a book doesn’t earn of the advance. In the US, apparently they do.
5. Within the first 30 pages the book must show what the stakes are, introduce a sympathetic character with a problem, and introduce the central relationship.
6. A query should include the hook, what the book’s position in the market might be, and the author’s bio.
7. Never tell the ending of your book in the query letter.

Participants had the opportunity to have their prepared query critiqued and, naturally, I grabbed the chance. One of my better decisions. Getting personal time from a roomful of writers and a professional agent helped me hone my query letter.

Monday morning I launched it with all the good wishes of a luxury liner setting sail. Bon voyage!

What workshops or conferences have you attended lately?  Were you glad you went? Consider leaving a comment about your experiences.


13 thoughts on “Agent Sam Hiyate Gives Great Tips to Writers

  1. Hmmm, I didn’t know that about American advances, interesting. Thanks for sharing, Elaine. I just attended an all day workshop with the Toronto Romance Writers by Deborah Cooke. She gave us an indepth understanding of the various publishing models, payment schedules, reports and how to find the right publishing mode that works for you.

    There is so much to learn about his business and it’s changing all the time!


  2. I have not attended a workshop but I submitted a short story to a publisher who really took the time to critique my work. She wrote me back a long email with suggestions and it healthy critique. It was a great experience for me. She was very impressed with my writing and will also publish my first short story.

    Glad you have a great time and it is nice to hear about what is going on in the U.K. and Canada.


  3. Sounds like you had a great time, Elaine. I haven’t been to a conference since the Write!Canada conference in Guelph in 2009. It was a good experience to be able to speak with editors and it’s also an advantage in that you don’t have to go through all the loopholes to submit when you have had an interview with someone from the publisher. And it’s always fun to get to meet other authors. Many of the people I “knew” from Inscribe Christian Writers so it was good to put voices and personalities to the faces in their photos. I hope this makes sense because I’m having a struggle to keep my eyes open right now!


    • You are so right, Diane. My conferences and workshops and weekend retreats always give me lots to push me along on my writing journey. I haven’t one booked just now but am mulling over where and what I’d like to do next.


  4. Thanks for the informative post! So glad I found your blog. I am now a follower! I have written two books and am working on another. Several of my short stories have been published but I continue my struggle to find an agent or publisher. I appreciate all the advice I get. Thanks Elaine.


    • Hi Phyllis! Thanks for weighing in on my post. I, too, appreciate all the help I can get and love to find new writers. Good work on your publishing record so far. Keep plugging, they say, and you’ll make it. All best!


  5. Sam is a great speaker and so personable.
    The WCDR puts on a lot of great workshops and their reach is gettting wider. (can’t tell I’m a member can you?)
    Good luck Elaine! I’ve got a few more edits before I can send mine off. Hope you beat me to being published.


    • I didn’t know you were a member, Dale, but I can see why. When Sally sent me their roster of events, I almost wanted to move to the other side of Toronto! I’d miss my family, though, so have to do the drives, I guess. And how kind of you to wish me luck in this manner. Back at you, Dale!


  6. Elaine, you are becoming an honourary WCDR member,so you might as well just join, and join in on the conversation! We have a Twitter account, too, which I just signed on to yesterday. The more writers I meet across North America and in England, the more I realize how unique and awesome WCDR is! I’m so honoured to be on the board and thrilled to be the Workshop Coordinator and VP. Sam’s workshop on Sunday was truly one of the highlights. His one on one sessions begin tomorrow, so people will have an entire hour with Sam to hone their book projects. I can tell you from experience that it is a wonderful way to ‘re-see’ your work from an agent’s eyes.

    It was so good to see you in Oshawa on Sunday! Since we met at Algonkian, I am delighted to get to know you more through your blog and events like this. Maybe you will consider coming to our breakfast some month? A little early for a long drive, but we’d love to have you!


  7. So there’s a great thought. Might have to update my car, though, for traveling all those miles!
    And I was amazed to hear you guys know Hana. Small world. Thanks for commenting on my blog, Sally. Soon, it’ll be published author Sally!


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